The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

Opinion

April 4, 2014

Our View: War come home

— Not a single U.S. soldier was killed in Afghanistan in March, the first zero-fatality month there since January 2007.

It’s a milestone and evidence that as the mission in Afghanistan moves away from combat and focuses on training Afghan forces, the casualties will decline — and certainly none too soon.

But America is facing another battle on its own soil, one that claimed four lives on Wednesday when a soldier stationed at Fort Hood, Texas, killed three people, wounded 16 others and then used the last bullet on himself.

Spc. Ivan Lopez, according to Associated Press reports, appeared to have a clean record and had never seen combat during his deployment to Iraq. Lopez, since his return from Iraq, had sought help for depression, anxiety and other problems. Investigators are still searching for answers, even as the shooting brought back memories of the 2009 shooting at Ford Hood where 13 people were killed and some 30 people wounded. Last September, a former Navy man opened fire at the Washington Navy Yard, leaving 13 people dead, including the shooter.

Lopez was being evaluated for post-traumatic stress disorder before the shooting on Wednesday, although a diagnosis had not been made. He had recently been transferred, and some military officials expressed concern that he should have remained at the other base and was not ready for the transition.

One of the largest studies of mental health risk ever conducted among the U.S. military was released earlier this year and has found that 25 percent of nearly 5,500 active-duty Army soldiers surveyed had some type of mental disorder. Ranking high among the problems seen was post-traumatic stress disorder, a type of anxiety that can occur after a person has gone through extreme emotional trauma.

A national review of the Army’s behavioral health work force released in early March showed more mental heath workers are needed in the military and that some troops are not getting care or diagnosis is delayed.

For many of our troops who have returned from Iraq and Afghanistan, the war is not over.

It’s imperative that mental health screenings, treatment and care be available for troops, veterans and family members who have lost loved ones in combat.

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